Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior

Young Samurai: The Way of the Warrior

In previous books, Jack Fletcher sailed to Japan with his father only to lose him to the wave of anti-Christian sentiment sweeping the island nation. When the Ninja who murdered his father steals Jack's father's logbook, Jack's only possession and an invaluable guide to the world's oceanic trading paths, Jack vows to retrieve the book. I assume that's where the last book in the series ended, but I'm not positive as I jumped into this book without ever having read the first novel.

I have to say, my lack of previous experience in Jack's story did not stop me from enjoying this book, which is surely a rarety among sequels: an outstanding standalone novel. (Since writing the above, I’ve done my research. Not only is there a book before this one, there’s a series. I have a lot of catch up to do!)

In Way of the Warrior, the story still winds around Jack, the lost logbook and Jack's efforts to become a samurai, but the war against foreigners and the other Daimyo (provincial rulers) now takes center stage. In fact, the latter half of the book rates as among the most moving pieces of YA or warfare reading material I've been privileged to read. The self sacrifice of Jack's classmates moved me beyond words at times.

If you have boys looking for good reading material, I can’t think of anything much better than this book. As someone who hates reading series, it surely speaks volumes that I want to read Mr. Bradford’s other work.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sisters of Fortune by Jehanne Wake

Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad is an in-depth look at the lives of four siblings who formed the backbone of wealth, politics and society in the nineteenth century.
Told from the perspective of previously unpublished letters written by the Caton family and detailing intimate facts and family history, Author, Jehanne Wake displays her flawless research and writing ability.
Marianne, Bess, Louisa and Emily Caton were born, bred and raised in Maryland, primarily by their wealthy grandfather, Charles Carroll, the sole Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Only because of his influence, wealth, and connections, were these sisters able to travel extensively, be exposed to impressive members of society, and gain their own financial security.  The lives of each sister is thoroughly chronicled in this interesting novel, complete with photographs.
Although my preference in reading novels are ones written in third person, I was deeply impressed with the factual display of information uncovered by Ms. Wake in this historical biography, specifically the last chapter which acknowledges the numerous avenues she traversed to write this book.  The Caton sisters were able to become influential, educated, and involved in politics and financial decisions long before other women of their time.  Opinionated, free-spirited and considered beautiful and charming, the Caton sisters rocked not only the US but England and France, overcoming prejudices and achieving enviable social status. This novel allows readers a glimpse into their personal lives and romances. 
The reading of this book was quite a different venture for me, but one I enjoyed and recommend.  The experience uncovered feelings of pride in a sisterhood that paved the way for females in today’s political and financial world. I wonder what the sisters would think  if they were alive and recognized their contributions.  To the author, I say, "Well done, Ms. Wake, well done!"
 This Simon and Schuster/Touchstone novel is available in paperback, hardcover and Kindle via

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cartier's Ring - A Novel of Canada by Pearson Moore

The premise of this book appealed to me because of the inclusion of Native American history which is a favorite sub-genre.  I wasn’t disappointed in the large dose of historical facts that flowed throughout the book, just the constant immersion in them and my inability to keep track of who was who and how the countless characters were related.   The inclusion of conflict with French traders added even more names to remember, yet introduced me to a period in history of which I knew little. 
The main character, Myeerah, fails to find acceptance with the tribe with whom she resides because she’s was born to a different one.  The story centers around her and her desire to shoot, ride, and assume the role of a warrior—desires that dominate her thoughts and set her aside from other Indian maidens.  The author’s writing is crisp, clean and very picturesque, which lends to the reader assuming a role in the story, although, in my opinion, often a confused one.  The use of various Indian dialects and a mixture of tenses in the presentation caused me to often close the book and return at a later time.
 Mr. Moore has done extensive research and written a book guaranteed to introduce or reacquaint you with details you might not know or remember from high school.  I found myself lost quite a few times and had to go back and re-read portions of the book to keep the characters and their POVs straight in my mind.  More than anything, I appreciated the detailed glimpses into the life, history and beliefs of the tribes featured in the novel. I enjoyed being part of the story in that respect.
Comprehension issues are often not the fault of the author, but rather the reader, however in perusing other reviews Mr. Moore has received, I see I’m not the only person to touch on the countless names and POV issues in the book.  Regardless, I invite you to read and make your own judgments.  Clearly, Mr. Moore is a talented author who believes in maintaining his historical credibility and has garnered many favored reviews.  I wouldn't hesitate to read more of his work and hopefully find fewer characters he believes vital to the story.  I also apologize to Mr. Moore for the prolonged period between receiving his work and performing my review.  Health issues kept me sidelined for a time.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lady Of The English by Elizabeth Chadwick

Two very different women are linked by destiny and the struggle for the English crown. Matilda, daughter of Henry I, is determined to win back her crown from Stephen, the usurper king. Adeliza, Henry's widowed queen and Matilda's stepmother, is now married to William D'Albini, a warrior of the opposition. Both women are strong and prepared to stand firm for what they know is right. But in a world where a man's word is law, how can Adeliza obey her husband while supporting Matilda, the rightful queen? And for Matilda pride comes before a fall ...What price for a crown? What does it cost to be 'Lady of the English'?

This novel, set in 1125, is the story of two women, one an Empress and one who was Queen of England. Matilda, daughter of Henry I, is married off when little more than a child to Emperor Heinrich of Germany, who is now dead.  Even in widowhood  and a Dowager Empress, Matilda is not in charge of her own destiny and her father summons her home.

Having lost his beloved son on the tragedy of The White Ship, Matilda is King Henry’s only legitimate heir and he orders her to marry Geoffrey la Bel, Count of Anjou, a boy of fifteen. Despite a rocky and violent beginning, Geoffrey and Matilda produce three sons and look forward to ruling England under the patronage of the English Barons who have sworn allegiance to Matilda.

The second lady of the English is Adeliza of Louvain, King Henry’s second wife and Matilda’s step-mother who is almost her own age. Unable to conceive a much-needed male heir for King Henry, Adelia becomes close to Matilda, but their relationship is tested after the death of the King, and Stephen of Blois is poised to steal Matilda’s crown.

'The old king is dead and the rats are scurrying everywhere.'

The barons are unwilling to accept a female ruler, but aided by her half-brother Robert of Gloucester and Brian Fitzcount, Matilda is ready to fight for her inheritance and embarks on a voyage to England. This begins well, with a victory at The Battle of Lincoln, a march on London and the capture of Stephen, until the London mob rise against her and Matilda has to flee. Queen for only a few months and uncrowned, Matilda managed to secure her inheritance of the Duchy of Normandy through the military prowess of her husband, Geoffrey — and campaigned for her eldest son's inheritance, living to see him ascend the throne of England as Henry II in 1154.

Adeliza marries William d’Aubigny, who is loyal to King Stephen, and while she sympathizes with Matilda’s cause, and does all she can to help her when Matilda is robbed of her rightful crown, her duty and honour to her husband comes first. This is reinforced by the fact Adeliza isn’t barren at all and gives William much wanted children. However, her conflicting loyalties reflects on her closeness to Matilda, and their relationship is principally what this novel is about, along with the impact a long and bloody civil war has on the English people.

For the most part, Elizabeth Chadwick stuck to actual events in this novel, and where she didn’t she explains at the end. She handles the complicated political wrangles and skirmishes beautifully, although knowing the outcome reduces the tension for me a little as I knew poor Matilda was doomed never to be Queen.

However, Matilda’s strong, uncompromising  character comes through very well, and I loved the stormy abuse she heaps upon the arrogant Geoffrey at the beginning of their marriage.  I especially enjoyed her relationship with her son, whom she takes to ‘invade’ England, which is a lovely portrayal of duty, loyalty and motherly devotion. I did worry for the young Henry on occasion.

Another triumph for Ms Chadwick.

Review by Anita Davison

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Accidents of Providence by Stacia Brown

A new voice in historical fiction rescues a woman wronged by her time and forgotten by history, whose love affair leads to her trial for murder. It is 1649. King Charles has been beheaded for treason. Amid civil war, Cromwell’s army is running the country. The Levellers, a small faction of agitators, are calling for rights to the people. And a new law targeting unwed mothers and lewd women presumes anyone who conceals the death of her illegitimate child is guilty of murder. achel Lockyer, unmarried glove maker, and Leveller William Walwyn are locked in a secret affair. But when a child is found buried in the woods, Rachel is arrested. So comes an investigation, public trial, and unforgettable characters: gouty investigator Thomas Bartwain, fiery Elizabeth Lillburne and her revolution-chasing husband, Huguenot glover Mary Du Gard, and others. Spinning within are Rachel and William, their remarkable love story, and the miracles that come to even the commonest lives. For fans of Fingersmith and The Dress Lodger, Accidents of Providence is absorbing historical fiction and Rachel Lockyer is a character history will never again forget.

My Review:
It was the cover that first drew me to this book and then the era. I enjoy historical fiction that takes place before the 18th century. The novel is about an unmarried young woman named Rachel Lockyear who works as a glove maker for wages and lodgings. She enters into a secret love affair with a man named William Walwyn, a married man with a rather large family. When William is imprisoned for his political views, Rachel discovers she is pregnant. Alone and facing society’s ostracism for unwed mothers, this sets off a chain of events that ultimately ends up with Rachel being charged with the murder of her child.

The story unfolds through much narrative, back-story, flashbacks, and several different points of view, revealing the truth a tidbit at a time. This mystery and the desire to understand what happened kept me reading to the end of the book although the prose was a struggle and difficult to follow. Nevertheless, it was a poignant depiction and true portrayal of how women suffered against society’s norms in the 17th century. I'm a bit ambivalent. Can't say I loved the story style or the writing style, but I loved the story and it did keeping me reading through to the end.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Enter to win books for your book club!

Attention Book Clubs! Simon and Schuster Canada is excited to announce a contest specifically for book clubs in the fall. Click Book Club for more details.